How much exercise is too much?
If you think you’ve been overdoing it at the gym, let me teach you how to listen to your body. Now more than ever people are keen to get back into the gym and are eager to shift the weight that was gained during Christmas feasts.
There’s no doubt that regular exercise is one of the best things we can do for our health! But have you ever heard of the term over exercising?
Regardless of your fitness goals (which we love hearing about BTW), it’s important to always listen to your body and observe any signs you might be pushing yourself a little too hard.
Does your body constantly feel sore?
Are you exhausted after exercise rather than energised?
Do you feel like you’re always battling injuries?
Are you having trouble sleeping?
Is your menstrual cycle irregular?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be overtraining and suffering from burnout.
While recovery time varies from person to person, a period of 48 to 72 hours is usually required for adequate recovery between strength training sessions. It’s in the recovery that we benefit from all that hard work as our muscles are given time to recover.
As a general rule, slower more gentle types of training (think yoga, PIlates and walking) require about half that amount of recovery time.
Consider your stress levels.
We also need to think about the stress overtraining places on our bodies and understand how stress affects our cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol can decrease our stores of serotonin leading to depression, reduced vitamin and mineral activity and cause us to crave carbohydrates – especially in the evening.
Sudden changes to our exercise routine can also affect stress levels. If you suddenly start running further than usual or up your intensity at the gym, the body will respond accordingly by weakening the immune system. This is called immunosuppression, also referred to by experts as the “open window” theory. This means that for up to 72 hours post-exercise, the body’s ability to defend itself from bugs is weakened. Eek!
As always, before embarking on a new exercise program, we highly recommend you seek the expert advice of a personal trainer or exercise physiologist. A fitness professional will assess your level of fitness and tailor a program to suit your abilities without creating burn out.